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What do kale and Coca-cola have in common?

Kale certainly has gotten its share of attention in the past few years. It has grown in popularity in the U.S. and around the world because it is nutritious and affordable. In Kenya, it seems to be everywhere. It even grows by the roadside in some areas, free for the taking. The Kenyans call it “sukuma wiki” (“pushing the week”) because it fills in the gaps for many when the cupboard is bare. IMG_8709

I heard someone ask recently "When did kale get an agent?" Clearly, kale doesn’t need one. Kale's popularity is organic, driven by consumer interest in a high-quality, nutrient-dense, delicious food. It blankets the Kenyan landscape and farms stateside, as well.

Coca-cola ads and products can also be seen dotting the landscape at home and abroad. In Kenya, we spotted billboard after billboard, and shop after shop, sporting its familiar red and white logo. Consumers love its sweetness, but, In contrast to kale, Coca-cola has no nutritional value, and actually has been linked to chronic diseases and 184,000 deaths worldwide each year, according to a recent study conducted at Tufts University.

Its popularity is clearly not organic, but by design. The Coca-cola company is strategically targeting Africa to boost its soda sales. Sales in the U.S. have declined for five consecutive years. To counterbalance the situation, there is an aggressive marketing campaign focused on Africa.

Their goal is evidently to get in every mom and pop shop they can possibly find (or build). But they are not content with staying inside. The company offers to paint the exterior of the "dukas" (small shops) in exchange for displaying their logo prominently.

"Enjoy Coke cold."

They've even extended their "Share a coke with a friend" campaign to Kenya.

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I spotted the only good use for a coke bottle in my Maasai host's home. They had filled the bottle with wild honey.

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Kale and Coke. Both popular. Both omnipresent. That's where the similarities end.

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